Many women (and physicians) were caught off guard in 2002 when a governmental study was released on the effects of hormone therapy on women and breast cancer. It is for this reason that when discussing hormone therapy for women in menopause, one must first discuss and understand the Women’s Health Initiative. The study was first published in 2002 and raised serious concern for women everywhere about the risk of using hormones.
Dr. Rohde does not support the use of synthetic hormones and instead offers a natural alternative through bioidentical hormones. Unlike synthetic hormones, bioidentical hormones or natural hormones are replicas of the body’s own natural hormones. They are made from soy, yams and other plant extracts and are then changed in a lab to be biologically identical to the hormones your body makes. For optimal safety and results, Dr. Rohde supplements hormones at the lowest doses to achieve and maintain hormonal balance. We then evaluate your symptoms and retest hormone levels regularly until optimal balance is achieved.
When our hormones are in balance, when we eat right and exercise, we are the healthiest, the most vital, and suffer the lowest amount of disease.
THE WOMEN’S HEALTH INITIATIVE
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was designed to define the risks and benefits of using synthetic hormone therapy to potentially prevent heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
It is important to note that the women in this study were all postmenopausal and had an average age of sixty-eight. This fact is significant as most of these women had 15 years since the loss of their hormones to develop diseases that appropriately balanced levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone might have prevented.
The fact that the study used synthetic hormones and not the natural bioidentical hormones should not be overlooked as well. Synthetic hormones are not natural to the human body. The action of synthetic hormones is different than those of natural human hormones, as the synthetic hormones bind to the cell receptors more tightly, causing prolonged stimulation. The synthetic hormones are difficult to get out of your system. Finally, these synthetic hormones act as toxins in the body because they are not metabolized the same way human “bioidentical” hormones are metabolized. There is a great deal of scientific and biochemical research which shows how differently synthetic hormones act in the body as compared to natural bioidentical hormones.
Finally, women who had symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes and night sweats) were dissuaded from entering the study. These are the women most likely in the greatest need and those likely to receive the greatest benefit from hormone therapy.
INCREASED RISK OF HEART DISEASE
There was a significant increase in heart attacks in the first year of the study in women using either Premarin or Prempro (Premarin plus Provera) yet a smaller non-significant increase in heart attacks in the following years. Heart disease actually increased in the placebo group by year 6, as compared to the group treated with hormone therapy, leading to the apparent protective effect of hormone therapy.
INCREASED RISK OF BREAST CANCER
The study was divided into three groups: One receiving nothing (placebo), one group receiving Premarin (horse estrogen), and the last group receiving Prempro (Premarin plus Provera, the synthetic progestin). When comparing the women who received no hormone therapy to the women receiving Premarin (horse estrogen) alone, there was actually a decrease (although not significant) in breast cancer. It is only when adding the synthetic progestin Provera that we saw an increase in breast cancers when compared to those women who received no hormone therapy. Studies have revealed that natural progesterone, unlike synthetic progestin, protects the breasts against cancer.
INCREASED RISK OF STROKE AND BLOOD CLOTS
It is known that when giving estrogens orally, the effect on the liver is to increase the proteins that clot your blood, thereby increasing your risk for blood clots and strokes. However, this effect is not seen with natural estrogens given in the cream form through the skin. This may be due to the fact that estrogen given as a cream does not have to pass through the liver to get into your system.
DECREASED RISK OF OSTEOPOROSIS
The WHI showed that women taking synthetic estrogens had a decreased risk of hip fractures. There are studies as well showing the positive effect of natural estrogens on the prevention of hip fractures and the treatment of osteoporosis.
Nurses Health Study
Finds Higher Breast Cancer Risk
"It clearly raises the need to reconsider the risk and benefit if a woman is
going to use hormones for more than five years", said Dr. Graham A. Colditz of
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the study's principal author.